Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel [εὐαγγέλιον euaggelion – good news message] which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
God’s gospel message is simple in its presentation (1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is a message of love and grace (John 3:16-17; Eph. 2:8-9). It centers at the cross where Jesus died for all our sins (1 Cor. 1:18, 21; 15:3-4; Col. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 2:24). The gospel message only makes sense when we understand that God is holy, all mankind is sinful, and that Jesus necessarily died as our substitute. God’s holiness means He is positively righteous and completely set apart from sin (Ps. 99:9; 1 Pet. 1:14-16). Because God is holy, He cannot have anything to do with sin except to condemn it. The Scripture states, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You can not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13), and “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
The gospel is the solution to a problem; it is the good news that follows the bad news. The bad news-problem is sin, which according to Scripture is a threefold problem: first and foremost is Adam’s original sin which is charged to every person (Rom. 5:12, 18-19; 1 Cor. 15:21-22), second is the sin nature which is the source of the rebellious heart (Rom. 7:14-25; 13:12-14), and lastly is the personal sin each person produces every time he/she yields to temptation (Jam. 1:14-15). Sin brings death and separation from God (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 5:12), both in time and in eternity (Rev. 20:11-15). Because of sin, every person is spiritually dead and powerless to change their situation (Rom. 5:6-10; Eph. 2:1). All people are helpless to save themselves, and good works are worthless in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5).
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. (Tit. 3:5)
The good news-solution is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). This is substitutionary atonement. Jesus died in our place, “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18; cf. Rom. 5:6-10). The gospel teaches that Jesus died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sin in order to satisfy God’s holiness (Rom. 3:25; 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). Jesus “is the propitiation [ἱλασμός hilasmos – satisfaction] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2; cf. Rom. 3:25; 1 John 4:10). Jesus paid the redemption price for our sins (Rom. 3:24), and God offers us eternal life if we’ll trust Christ as our Savior (John 3:16-17). When we trust in Christ as our Savior, we are forgiven all our sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14), positionally identified with Him (Rom. 5:14-18; 1 Cor. 15:22), given eternal life (John 3:16; 10:27-28), given the gift of God’s righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9), and have the power to live righteously (Rom. 6:1-13). God saves from the penalty of sin (Jo. 5:24; Rom. 6:23; 8:1), the power of sin (Rom. 6:11; 8:13; 2 Cor. 5:17), and ultimately the presence of sin (Phil. 3:21; 1 Jo. 3:2).
Salvation is never what we do for God, but rather what He has done for us by sending His Son to die in our place and bear the wrath for sin that was due to us (Isa. 53). We are helpless to save ourselves because we are completely crippled by sin (Rom. 5:6-10; 6:23; Eph. 2:1); therefore, salvation comes to us only as a free gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5), “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). Jesus paid the price for our sin, and we need only to trust Him for salvation (John 3:16, 20:31; Rom. 3:25). We do not earn or deserve salvation. Salvation is completely the work of God, and those saved are the recipients of His grace (Eph. 2:8-10; Tit. 3:5).
Salvation is said to be “the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), “according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9), and “according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). God has prepared good works to follow our salvation (Eph. 2:10), but they are never the condition of it (Acts 16:30-31; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:5). The matter is simple: Salvation comes to those who believe in Christ as their Savior (John 3:16; 20:31; Acts 16:30-31).
Steven R. Cook, M.Div.